Making it On His Own

Daniel Audette, Son of Habs Scout, Looks for Own NHL Path

  • 16-year-old Daniel Audette was the first overall pick in the QMJHL last year. Photo Jaime Leiva

Being the first overall selection in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft is enormous pressure for any teenager. Even more so for the son of a former National Hockey League player.

Being the first overall selection in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft is enormous pressure for any teenager. Even more so for the son of a former National Hockey League player.

That’s the pressure facing 16-year-old Daniel Audette, who in June of last year’s QMJHL draft was chosen No. 1 overall by the Sherbrooke Phoenix, a significant step toward the young centre’s dreams of following in his father Donald’s footsteps all the way to the NHL.

It’s a dream long in the making for the future star born in Buffalo, NY and raised in Blainville, QC.

“I started skating at three years old, trying to do what my dad was doing back then,” said Daniel. “He was pretty much the reason why I started playing hockey.

“Seeing the life he was living playing the sport he loves everyday really made me want to become a hockey player,” he continued.
His father remembers the exact moment when he realized his son was a gifted athlete.

“When he first grabbed a hockey stick, it was natural,” said Donald. “Everything was natural for him—baseball, golf. And later on, you could see that he had talent.”

As a former 14-year NHL veteran and current scout for the Montreal Canadiens, Audette does have a degree of insight into the matter.
The expectations that come with such talent might lead many to fold under the pressure, but not Daniel.

“I try not to think about it as pressure,” he said. “Hockey is a game and it’s rather fun because [my dad] gets to tell me tips and tricks, which help me a lot.”

Donald’s help led Daniel to make Quebec’s team at the Under-17 World Championships in 2012. But upon his son’s selection in last year’s QMJHL draft, Donald had to help Daniel with one more thing—moving.

Having been picked by Sherbrooke, Daniel had to leave his home in Blainville, where he lived with his father, mother Manon and sister Katherine, which he admits was difficult at first.

“It’s a big change, but I got used to it over time,” he said.

As for being drafted first overall, Audette calls the experience a humbling one, and a moment in his career that he will never forget.
“It was an amazing feeling, something that I won’t live twice for sure,” he said.

Hearing Daniel’s name being announced on the speakers inside the Colisée Pepsi in Quebec City was a proud moment for the entire Audette family.

“We were really proud of him because he worked so hard to get there,” said Manon. “When we heard his name being announced, we were just so proud. It was like, ‘Wow, this is unbelievable.’”

Added Donald, “It’s a great feeling. It’s very special and we’re honoured to have a team put the confidence in our kid like that.”

It’s easy to see why Sherbrooke did so: In his final season with the Collège Esther-Blondin Phénix, Audette recorded 25 goals and 35 assists, making him a high-prized prospect for the upcoming draft.

While the Collège Esther-Blondin Phénix have only been around since 2010, the Sherbrooke Phoenix are even newer; as an expansion team, they began their first season in the QMJHL this past fall.

The team has had a slow start, still adjusting to the new league as they currently sit in last place of the QMJHL West Division, but Audette remains optimistic and feels that he has learned a lot in his first season.

“So far it’s been great,” he said. “Although we have had a rough start, I still learned a lot and things are getting better and better.”
Phoenix head coach Judes Vallée has had nothing but praise so far for his young star in the making.

“He has a lot of speed and he is the type of player who can change a game in one shift,” Vallée said. “He is a danger to the opposing team.”

Vallée believes that next season Audette will come back more experienced, stronger, and have an even bigger impact with the Phoenix.

“He will arrive here stronger physically,” Vallée said. “He is still young. I am sure he will come back here with even more maturity.”

Donald hopes his son’s future will be filled with many more successful moments. With the right mindset, he believes Daniel will achieve whatever goals he sets.

“Many things can come in and disturb your plan, but you only have to take it one day at a time and do your best,” said Donald. “It’s going to take him as far as he wants it to. There are a lot of sacrifices to be made and if he is willing, good things will happen.”

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